Archive for November, 2006

Going to Texas

November 30, 2006

It will probably be over a week before I check back in here. We’re leaving in the morning for Texas, where my brother will be getting married on Saturday (Houston, specifically, though we will spend most of our time in Atlanta).

Before I left, I wanted to offer a few more clarifications about the Bible reading plan outlined in my previous entry. I am glad Blake and Craig have decided to join me in following the plan, and I hope that there are others too. In his post about this plan to read every book of the Bible over and over until you have read it twenty times, Joe Carter encouraged his readers to start with short books and work their way up to the long ones. Shorter books can be read in one sitting, often multiple times. I started by reading Jude 5 times a day. I had finished it in 4 days. James is taking a bit longer, since I only read it 1 or 2 times a day, but I am still making good progress. Long books like Isaiah may take multiple days just to read it once. But the key to this is perseverance, even when you don’t feel like reading the same book anymore. God will open up new insights. There are treasures to be found in his Word, but sometimes we must dig for them. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to his truth every time you sit down to read.

And then here is a tip from my own experience: treat Psalms and Proverbs a little differently (at least that’s what I prefer to do). If I read more than five Psalms in one sitting, I get overloaded. Each individual Psalm is an independent unit of communication. Of course, they all connect to each other in some ways, but I find that reading more than five at a time tends to decrease my ability to digest what I am reading. A similar principle holds true for the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is a collection of pithy sayings that require time to think through and digest as you read them. I find that one chapter at a time is a sufficient amount to try to digest. For these reasons, I have taken a different strategy with Psalms and Proverbs. My goal is to read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs a day (this is in addition to the other reading I am doing, focusing on one book at a time to read through twenty times). At this pace, I will complete both books every month (There are 150 Psalms; Proverbs has 31 chapters). I hope to keep up this practice indefinitely. After twenty months, I will have read both of these books twenty times. If you want to get started with this daily practice, a good day to start would be December 1st. If you miss a day, you can decide whether you want to try to make up the lost ground or just skip ahead in order to stay on schedule. Either way, you’ll still be reading Scripture, and that’s what is important.

Read prayerfully. Read faithfully and obediently. Read to know God. And may God bless your faithfulness.


An Apology (i.e., Defense) for the Quiet Time

November 28, 2006

In my younger days I used to equate spirituality with the regularity of having one’s “quiet time.” Christianity was about me meeting with Jesus alone each day. Everything else was gravy on top.

My mind has changed over the last several years with regard to this issue. I believe true spirituality has everything to do with one’s church and fellow believers. The truly spiritual person is the one who worships the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit, in the context of the local church. It is in the church that we hear the Word proclaimed, that we feast at the Lord’s table together, that we love and serve one another with cruciform lives as Jesus commanded. The quiet time is but one dimension of life that cannot engage us in this level of worship, of communion, of (for lack of a better word) spirituality.

However, in my own life I have been through pendulum swings, and my swing away from the quiet time went, I believe, a bit too far, and is now beginning to come back. I am aware of the fact that quiet times as we know them today are a relatively recent innovation, given the fact that most believers throughout history either (a) had no copy of the Bible in their own language that they could read privately, or (b) could not read at all. Scripture reading, as it is depicted in Scripture, is primarily a communal event. Ezra read the Law to the returned exiles of Israel. Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue. Paul commanded that his letters be read to the churches when they were gathered together. Is there even a biblical basis for individual devotion to God that consists of reading and meditating on Scripture? Does the Bible give warrant for its own reading outside the context of the church? These were some of the questions I asked as my quiet time pendulum swung to a position of less importance.

However, as I said, it is beginning to swing back now to a more balanced position. I believe there is a biblical basis for individual Bible reading and meditation. Consider Psalm 1:1-3:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Clearly, to meditate day and night on the Law implies that one’s engagement with Scripture must go beyond merely the reading and exposition of Scripture in the gathered assembly. But how could this have happened in a culture where most people did not own their own copies of Scripture? In the primarily oral cultures of the Ancient Near East and the first century, people memorized Scripture much more effectively than we do today. Children learned the Law of Moses at synagogue school. Jesus had great knowledge of Scripture and could quote it on demand as situations arose, indicating that he had spent much time studying, meditating on, and memorizing it. Paul’s knowledge of Scripture is abundantly evident from his letters. Even Peter, a mere fisherman, displayed an ability to quote Scripture in his preaching and writing. These facts indicate to me that, while the synagogue (and later the church) was the most important place for people to read Scripture together, it was not the only place where devout people read or heard it. Even if it involved meditating on passages that they had memorized, I believe Jesus, Paul, Peter, and many other devout people had the first-century equivalent of what we call “daily quiet times.”

But we do have clear evidence that prayer was a daily practice for the devout people of Scripture. Daniel prayed three times a day (and got thrown to the lions for it!). The frequency and fervency of Jesus’ prayer life is well-known. The fact that he taught us to pray for our “daily bread” indicates that he intended us to pray every single day. And then there are commands like, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) which surely indicates that Christians are to devote themselves to a pattern of regular, daily prayer. Both personal Bible study and prayer are attested as practices of devotion in Scripture, and blessings are promised to those who dedicate themselves to these regular disciplines.

My problem is that I have trouble with consistency. And when I fail to maintain faithful habits of prayer and Bible reading, I tend to fall back on the assurance that I am not being a legalist. But disciplined devotion and legalism are not necessarily the same thing. In any relationship, communication is key. What would my wife think if I went through a whole day without either listening to her or speaking to her? In the same way, I believe a relationship with God must be nurtured by daily disciplines of listening to him (through Scripture) and responding (with prayer). These are not the only aspects of Christian devotion. “Jesus and me” is reductionistic and is, therefore, not faithful to the New Testament picture of the fullness of Christian experience in the church. I believe the most important time of Bible reading and prayer that one has in a week is in the Sunday morning gathering of the church (or, if your church’s primary gathering is on Sunday night, then the Sunday night gathering). However, if man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, then how can one expect to eat once a week and stay healthy? Quiet times are not everything, but they are something, and a very important something at that.

I write this having just begun a new plan for reading the Bible so that I may know it well. My plan, which I picked up from Joe Carter (with a hat tip to Justin Taylor) contains four steps:

(1) Choose a book of the Bible.
(2) Read it in its entirety.
(3) Repeat step #2 twenty times.
(4) Repeat steps 1 through 3 for all 66 books of the Bible.

I believe that a daily, disciplined approach to Scripture that transforms my mind is something that will transform my life. I encourage you to read Joe’s post in its entirety. I have finished the book of Jude and have now moved on to James. I hope to share some of my thoughts on what I am reading from time to time here on my blog.

Should We Interpret the Bible Literally?

November 25, 2006

I ask this question because I think there is much confusion surrounding the issue of “literal” interpretation. Historically, literal interpretation of the Bible was the method opposed to allegorical interpretation. The school of Alexandria (whose greatest theologian was Origen) promoted an allegorical approach to Scripture. This method sought to go beyond the text’s literal meaning to find the deeper spiritual truths that it represented. The problem, however, was that there were no controls on how these deeper spiritual truths were discovered. It basically amounted to the interpreter reading into the text creatively whatever he or she wanted to find. The allegorical method of interpretation is still around today in many pulpits. I once heard a Father’s Day sermon on Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 1 with the four-faced creatures and the wheels with eyes all around. The point of the sermon was that fathers must often present different faces to their children, and they should do so with the “I’s” of integrity and several other words that begin with “I” that I can’t even remember now. It was the most creative sermon I think I have ever heard, but of course, it had no connection to the text upon which it was based. Plus, the fact that the word “eye” in English sounds like the letter “I” is a completely illegitimate point, since this passage of Ezekiel was written in Hebrew in the first place! Anyway, as you can see, I am not a fan of the allegorical approach to Scripture, even though in my younger days I dabbled in it from time to time.

The literal approach to Scripture was that of the Antiochene school, whose greatest theologians were probably John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia. In contrast to the allegorical approach of the Alexandrians, the Antiochenes argued that the Scripture must be interpreted as it presents itself. To interpret the Bible “literally,” in the historical sense of the term, does not mean to interpret it literalistically. In other words, if a passage presents itself as historical narrative, it must be interpreted as such. If it presents itself as poetry, then it must be interpreted as poetry. If it presents itself as apocalyptic, it must be interpreted as apocalyptic. The interpreter must always take into consideration the conventions of whatever genre of literature he or she is reading. The Reformers brought the literal interpretation of the Antiochene school back into a prominent place in the church at the end of the Middle Ages.

In our day, the word “literal” has undergone something of a shift in meaning. Today, “literal” is often opposed to “figurative.” “Jesus died on a cross” is considered a literal statement, but “God’s mighty right hand brought Israel out of Egypt” is considered a figurative statement, because God does not have a material body, which means necessarily that he does not have a right hand, at least in the way we normally conceive of right hands. I believe these distinctions must be recognized when one approaches Scripture, and if one prefers to use the term “literal” in opposition to “figurative,” then I have no quarrel with that use of the term. In this sense, then, many parts of the Bible should be interpreted literally and many parts should not. Passages of Scripture must be interpreted in the way they present themselves, which requires a knowledge of the literary conventions of each biblical genre. When we read the front page of the newspaper, we know that we are reading what purports to be factual accounts of real events. When we flip over to the comics, we understand that they are fictional. Our brains make the transition automatically because we automatically recognize the different genres. The same should hold true for the Bible, except for the fact that we probably will have to work a little harder to make our brains shift into an understanding of Ancient Near Eastern and first century literary forms.

Sometimes, however, I hear the word “literal” used in another sense, and it is this sense that I think is wrong. Some people say, “Do you take that literally?” to mean, “Do you think that text should be applied to our lives as it stands?” An example of this usage of the term would be to say, “I do not interpret 1 Timothy 2:11-15 literally because I think women should not be forbidden from serving as pastors today,” or, conversely, “I interpret 1 Timothy 2:11-15 literally because I think women should be forbidden from serving as pastors today.” In actuality, the word “literally” does not belong in this kind of conversation.

Let me give an example. I interpret Leviticus 11 (about clean and unclean foods) literally. Does this mean that I argue that we should only eat meat from animals that have a split hoof and chew the cud? No. I interpret this passage literally in the sense that I take it that God actually gave these commands about clean and unclean foods to the Israelites, and the Israelites in turn were expected to keep these commands. When read in the context of the full canon (especially Mark 7 and the letters of Paul), I understand that I am not bound by these regulations, since I do not live under the terms of the Sinai Covenant. However, that does not mean that I don’t interpret the terms of the Sinai Covenant literally. To interpret something literally does not directly address the question of whether or not a certain biblical passage applies directly to one’s life today. It pertains only to how one understands the text to present itself. The question of application of the text is a separate one and should not be confused with literal interpretation.

So, I can go with “literal” in its historic sense, which means understanding the text as it presents itself (in contrast to the allegorical method of interpretation). I can also go with “literal” in the sense that is opposed to “figurative” and recognize that both kinds of language exist in the Bible. But I think it is illegitimate to stretch the meaning of the word “literal” to address questions about the Bible’s application to our lives. This is not what literal interpretation is about.

Would an Errant Bible Be a Big Deal?

November 21, 2006

Sometimes it feels like my blog is kept alive by people named “Luke.” I appreciate both Luke S. and Luke A. (aka “Cogito”) and their willingness to discuss these issues with me. Cogito brought up so many important things in the previous post on inerrancy that I thought I would respond with another post instead of crowding my comments section with a lengthy response.

Cogito wrote:

“I think that you bring up a good point that there is a difference between ‘erring’ and ‘being mistaken’ in literature.”

I do not remember making that point, nor would I consider it a good point to make. In my view, to err and to be mistaken are the same thing. If I somehow communicated a difference between these two things, that was not my intent. Please reread my post and, if it doesn’t clear up for you, then cite for me the relevant portion so that I may better clarify my intention. I believe that this misinterpretation, wherever it may have arisen, has affected much of what you wrote in your comment.

“There are plenty of examples of errant writings that are celebrated and enjoyed, both in poetry, philosphophy, as well as holy scriptures. Take a look at Shakespeare, his plays and poems are packed with inconsitencies and ‘errors’ that do not take away from the beauty or meaning of the texts. Or take a look at Goethe, who almost celebrated inconsistencies saying that to remove them would basically destroy the text itself. This is a big point that a lot of the Higher Criticism crowd missed so many years ago.”

Well, it is certainly true that inerrancy is not a requirement for literature that is to be celebrated, enjoyed, even revered to some degree. But neither Shakespeare nor Goethe ever wrote anything claiming to be the authoritative Word of God. When I read Shakespeare, I am looking for beauty, artistry, inspiration (not in the 2 Timothy 3:16 sense), entertainment, and some penetrating insight into the human condition. But I never approach Shakespeare thinking that whatever he says, I am morally obligated to believe. So I can live with errors in Shakespeare. But if the Bible comes to us as the Word of God written, demanding absolute submission to it in whatever it claims (provided, of course, that it is interpreted properly and in light of the whole canon), then how can I believe that it contains errors? Does the Bible ask me to believe things that are not true? (Do not confuse “true” here with “true in a literalistic way”; that is not what I am arguing; see below for a fuller discussion of what I mean by the “truth” or “inerrancy” of Scripture).

“That being said, I think that you did a nice little dance to save the term ‘inerrancy’. If you’re not going to treat the Bible as ‘inerrant’ then why use the term? Why not just call it the Word of God? I think the Word of God commands that ‘whatever it means, it should be believed and obeyed’.”

Again, I think this is based on a misinterpretation of my post. I do treat the Bible as inerrant. As for the Bible being called the “Word of God,” I fully agree and echo David when he writes, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19;7). To my mind, the Word of God can be nothing other than perfect, without flaw, inerrant, true in all that it affirms. But here I must offer a definition of what I mean by this term “inerrancy” in order to avoid misunderstanding. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy has a number of affirmations and denials, one of which reads as follows:

“We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture. We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”

The inerrancy of Scripture must be measured by the intentions of its authors. If the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John was not to give us a strict, chronological, and complete account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, then we cannot judge them to be in error if that is not what we have. We must evaluate their truth claims based on the degree of precision that they themselves intended.

Let me give a modern example. Let’s say Jones made $51,782.61 last year. In a conversation with a friend, Jones says, “I made $50,000 last year.” Is this an error on his part? No, it isn’t, because his purpose is not to be technically precise. The degree of precision that he intends to communicate is well-known in the communicative context. His friend knows that $50,000 is a round number and that it would be exceedingly odd for someone to make exactly that amount in a year. Now, if Jones says, “I made $150,000 last year,” then he would be in error, because that would communicate falsehood within the parameters of precision of that particular communicative context. However, when Jones fills out his income tax returns, a round number will not do. Different levels of precision are required for different contexts. It is illegitimate to measure a statement by a degree of precision that its author does not intend.

Furthermore, when I argue that the Bible is inerrant, I do not mean that everything that it says must be interpreted literalistically, by which I mean in an overly-literal manner (I intend a forthcoming post on the distinction between “literal” and “literalistic” to help clarify this often misunderstood topic). For example, does inerrancy require that the story of the Good Samaritan be historical fact? Of course not! Only a literalistic hermeneutic would distort Scripture by turning the story into something that it is not. Jesus taught with stories and parables, and Luke presents the story of the Good Samaritan as one such story Jesus told. Nothing in Luke’s narrative indicates that it was a historical account; however, Luke’s account that Jesus did in fact teach the story is historical, and his account of that fact is inerrant. As for the story itself, can it be considered inerrant if it does not make a claim to provide a historical account of fact? Yes. The story of the Good Samaritan is inerrant in that the truth that it teaches is God’s will for us. Jesus offers an authoritative interpretation of the command “Love your neighbor as yourself” by means of a story that he created. Genres of Scripture must be attended to carefully in order to avoid making inerrancy something that it is not, namely, an indefensible distortion of Scripture that squeezes every part of Scripture into historical narrative, when clearly not everything in Scripture is that. One of the persistent problems of biblical interpretation is how to determine what should be interpreted as history and what should not (I think of Genesis 1-2 primarily in connection with this question).

“If the Bible contains errors, so what? I don’t think anyone can reasonable argue that it does not. The real argument shouldn’t be whether it is free from error, but what is the meaning behind what was written–when it was written–and what does it mean to me now.”

Many people (very, very smart and reasonable people!) have argued that the Bible contains no errors. In fact, this has been the orthodox position of the church from the beginning. Inerrancy only began to be questioned around the time of the Enlightenment. See John Woodbridge’s Biblical Authority for a historical survey of the church’s historic position on this.

But what about the “so what” question? What would be the big deal if the Bible contained errors? I can think of many problems that would create:

(1) It would conflict with Scripture’s own testimony to itself, thereby undermining Scripture’s credibility.
(2) It would conflict with Jesus’ testimony to Scripture, thereby undermining Jesus’ credibility.
(3) It would shift the locus of authority from Scripture to the interpreter, because it would force the interpreter to decide where the Bible is right and where it is wrong. But on what basis would one make this determination, and if one sits in judgment over the Word of God in this way, then where is the real authority?
(4) It would lead to a canon within the canon, because portions of the Bible considered more reliable would inevitably begin to exercise a controlling influence over its “less reliable” portions. But again, on what basis could one determine what is “more reliable” and what is “less reliable”? In all likelihood, these determinations would reflect the subjective preferences of the interpreter.
(5) It would call into question the whole edifice of Christian theology. If the Bible cannot be trusted when it speaks to issues pertaining to history and science (things that are empirically verifiable), why should we trust what it says about spiritual matters (things that are not empirically verifiable)? In other words, if I consider the Bible to be wrong about things that I can verify, why should I trust it to be right about things that I can’t verify (such as the nature and existence of God, his purpose for mankind, salvation in Christ, etc.)?
(6) It would make God less than completely true in all that he has spoken, even though he knows all truth. It would, in effect, make God a liar. Some appeal to the doctrine of accomodation here to reject this conclusion, but I reject that argument. Yes, I believe God has accomodated himself to human language and understanding in his revelation, but I deny that this necessarily entails error. That is essentially what I argued in my previous post about the human character of Scripture and its compatibility with inerrancy.

These are the primary reasons why I think this issue matters.

The GOP and 2008

November 19, 2006

I have been thinking a lot about politics recently, for obvious reasons. I hope you, my vast multitude of adoring readers, do not mind one more post on the subject (yes, I do believe that there are a lot of you out there, even though I have no proof of that; unlike Craig, I will refrain from installing a site meter to verify my hunch, or should I say, stroke my ego?).

I saw John McCain on This Week with George Stephanopoulos this morning. I have to be honest: he swayed me this morning. I have not been a big McCain fan, but this is what I heard this morning:

– he is pro-life
– he wants Roe vs. Wade overturned by the Supreme Court so that the issue of abortion can be sent back to the states
– he favors appointing strict constructionist judges who will interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench
– he opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, although he is not opposed to allowing people to make legal arrangements (such as power of attorney, etc.) with whomever they might choose (a position that I think makes the most sense, because it addresses the concerns of gay-rights advocates without creating special rights for homosexuals)
– he favors small government
– he wants a restraint on government spending (of course, everybody says this, but I think he has some credibility when he makes this claim)
– he favors low taxes (he did oppose the Bush tax cuts both times, but the first time he opposed them because they were not accompanied by a cut in spending; the second time he opposed them because we were in the middle of a war; now that they are in place, he favors extending them)
– he believes victory in Iraq is possible, and he is willing to take an unpopular position (namely, that we need more troops in Iraq to win) in order to do what he can to see that that happens
– what may have impressed me the most was the fact that he actually answered the questions that he was asked. I recognize that many questions in politics require lenghty, nuanced answers (as do many questions in theology). But too often politicians, instead of offering nuanced answers to difficult questions, simply answer questions that they weren’t asked or come up with some lame excuse for not answering questions (“Well, I believe we should focus on the future and not on the past…”). McCain answered some tough, polarizing questions, and he clearly defined his positions in doing so. This is a breath of fresh air in a political climate dominated by ambiguity.

McCain may be my guy in 2008. I would certainly favor him over Rudy Giuliani. Of course, I would like to see Mike Huckabee (governor of Arkansas) run for President. Also, J.C. Watts might be a good candidate as well. Of course, a black candidate may have trouble getting elected, but if he runs against Hillary Clinton the country would be forced to choose someone other than a white male, so that might be to his advantage. Other names that come to mind are Mitt Romney, Bill Frist, and Newt Gingrich. I doubt that Gingrich has any chance at all, nor do I believe he is qualified to be President in spite of his good political sense. Frist ticked off conservatives like me when he came out in support of embryonic stem cell research. Romney’s biggest political liability is probably his Mormonism. I wouldn’t necessarily mind a Mormon President, but I don’t know that he could stir up a lot of support among evangelical Christians. And, of course, there is always Jeb Bush, but I don’t think anyone named “Bush” has any chance in a run for the White House for some years to come.

From where I sit, McCain has the advantage. Of course, only time will tell.

To Err Is Human?

November 18, 2006

One of the primary objections to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture is that inerancy robs Scripture of its human character. Belief in inerrancy, so we are told, is akin to a docetic Christology (the doctrine that Jesus Christ was not fully human but only appeared to be so). But wait just a minute…

Orthodox Christology has always affirmed that Jesus is fully God and fully man AND that he was without sin. That is the one thing about his humanity that is different from ours: his lack of sin. Does this mean, therefore, that Jesus was not really human? Only if you define sin into humanity. But then, that is to deny the essential goodness of God’s image-bearers. “To err is human” is not quite right. Sin and error are not necessary to humanity, since we were originally created without them. The Incarnation testifies to God’s original design for humanity. The fact that we are all sinners now because of the Fall does not mean that sin is a necessary component of our human essence.

Now, transfer this concept to Scripture. Can it be a fully human book and not contain errors? Yes, because nothing demands that humans err at all times and in everything they say. Consider the following paragraph:

I was born on November 13, 1980, in San Antonio, Texas. I have lived in four different locations in Texas: San Antonio, Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Marshall. Furthermore, I have lived in two locations in Kentucky: Louisville and Milton.

This paragraph is inerrant. It contains no errors of fact and communicates the information that I want to communicate to the degree of precision that I want to communicate it. It is not necessary for me to err when writing.

Of course, sooner or later, I will err in what I say or write. And no one is claiming that the authors of Scripture never erred in anything they ever said or wrote. The claim of inerrancy is, rather, that God preserved the biblical authors from error in their writing of inspired Scripture. And this claim is based on the Bible’s own testimony to itself. It is simply inconsistent to affirm some kind of authority for Scripture and yet to disregard Scripture’s own self-testimony* (especially the testimony of Jesus to Scripture as recorded in Scripture). I think it is time to be done with the idea that inerrancy is not compatible with the human character of Scripture. Error is not essential to human nature and communication. If one wants to argue for errors in Scripture, let that argument be made from Scripture itself, not from a prior theological commitment to a false understanding of humanity.

*I have not cited Scripture here pertaining to Scripture’s own self-testimony because to do so would be to engage in a massive project. For the best survey of Scripture’s testimony to itself, see Wayne Grudem’s article in the book Scripture and Truth, edited by D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge.

On My 26th Birthday, An Open Letter

November 13, 2006

Dear Age 25,

It’s time to say goodbye. You have been the best of friends to me. We have shared many amazing moments together:

You were there at my graduation from seminary. It felt so good to walk across that stage, take my diploma, and shake Dr. Mohler’s hand at the culmination of three-and-a-half years of graduate school. I will never forget that moment.

But even more significant, graduation day was also my 5th wedding anniversary. I hated it that all of the pomp and circumstance tended to focus more attention on me than on my precious wife, but both she and I know what the real celebration was for this past May 19th. And you were there to celebrate with us.

You were there every time I opened a letter from a school to which I had applied for doctoral studies. Three of them were acceptance letters, each one prompting us to imagine (in the moment and over the next few days) a different and exciting future. One was a rejection letter, but not a real disappointment. You were there that night when clarity finally settled in, and I knew which school to choose. You were also kind enough to accompany me throughout most of my first semester in the Ph.D. program here at Southern.

But above all, you were there when my son was born. You were there when I held him for the first time. You were there with us in the hospital during those first couple of nights. You were there through all of the nocturnal adjustments of the first six weeks. You were there with me until three days short of Benjamin’s eighth month–through all the memories and feedings and diapers and goofy playtimes and naps and pictures and family visits and trips to parks and stroller walks and hugs and kisses and every incredibly wonderful moment.

It’s time to move on now, but thanks for the memories.


P.S.–Do you think 26 has any chance at all, with this act to follow?

Southern Seminary: Past and Present

November 6, 2006

“Old Southern,” the nickname I use for the seminary prior to Dr. Mohler’s presidency, has now been endorsed by the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), as Russell Moore observes. I recently met a two-time graduate of “Old Southern,” who immediately upon shaking my hand launched into an apologetic for “the good ol’ days” before those darn fundamentalists took over with their hard-nosed, Bible-thumping, judgmental, hateful agenda (he didn’t put it like that, but I am familiar enough with the conversation to know what people think of us). If that’s what people think of us, then they are entitled to their opinion.

But I often hear the argument that “Old Southern” was the faithful bastion of Baptist principles prior to the nasty fundamentalist invasion. This will not do, and LEO‘s endorsement of “Old Southern,” combined with a nasty insult hurled at present Southern’s president, faculty, and students, helps to make my point. LEO is an alternative newspaper that is on the fringe of the left wing. The vast majority of Southern Baptists are not, nor have they ever been, on the fringe of the left wing. LEO‘s endorsement of “Old Southern” is, in my mind, akin to an endorsement from Fidel Castro. It only serves to confirm the truth that “Old Southern” was way out of touch with the Southern Baptist Convention. Like it or not, the six Southern Baptist seminaries are accountable to the denomination. As confessional institutions, they gladly submit to the authority of the local churches they represent. The conservative resurgence was essentially a grassroots movement in which ordinary Southern Baptists in their ordinary local churches let their voices be heard: they wanted, and still want, a seminary that is faithful to the absolute authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Holy Scripture. The Louisville Eccentric Observer thinks I am, well, rather eccentric. But I guess that’s what we should expect from a world that doesn’t know the Savior.